IAM Lynn Webster M.D., VP of Scientific Affairs at PRA Health Sciences, and I’m conducting clinical studies in people who admit to using opioids recreationally. We’re trying to develop medications that are harder to abuse and to prevent all uninte...
Hi Reddit. As the title says, my name is Dr. Lynn Webster. I’m VP of Scientific Affairs at PRA Health Sciences (PRAHS) and a past president of the American Academy of Pain Medicine. Much of my life I have worked to develop new, safer medications for pain and addiction. One of the areas of my research is to test abuse-deterrent formulations of pain medications. We’re in the middle of conducting these types of studies right now.
It’s no secret there’s an opioid/painkiller abuse crisis in the United States. A disturbing number of people have died due to abusing opioids. A recent report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates the financial cost exceeds 78 billion dollars annually. But, of course, far more important is the cost in human lives. The CDC states opioids are involved in 40 deaths each day in America. This is a staggering number. It is equivalent to a jumbo jet airplane crashing every 10 days. No wonder every governmental agency, including the White House, is involved in trying to curb this epidemic.
Nearly everyone in America knows someone who has developed an addiction or overdosed on opioids. There is no discrimination with this disease. It affects every social economic class. While opioids are necessary and help some people, they can be dangerous if not taken as directed. They can also be made safer.
The good news is that we are working hard to make opioids and other medications safer and more effective. The company I work for, PRA Health Sciences, is continually exploring ways to make existing and new drugs safer.
The way we study the abuse potential of drugs is to give the drugs to people and ask them how much they like the drug. The goal is to reduce “liking” in drugs while retaining the needed effect on pain receptors. We have volunteers compare the new drug, or drug formulation, with a drug that is commonly abused. The FDA requires that we conduct these studies in people who use these drugs for recreational purposes. These are people who are not addicted to the drugs but who are using the medication without a prescription.
In the past few years, the FDA has approved several of these abuse deterrent formulations. Early research suggests the abuse deterrent formulations are safer and associated with less harm.
It is my hope that, one day, we will have medications that cannot be abused but will provide relief to those who need the help.
In the meantime, I am happy to respond to your questions. Ask about the clinical trials, types of drugs we study, risks of opioids, addiction, or anything in the field of pain management or addiction. I will do my best to answer your questions.
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Edit: Thanks for your time, Reddit! This was a lot of fun. Thanks to everyone who asked questions–I hope it’s been informative. Feel free to continue to answer questions and I’ll try to answer as many as I can over the next day or so.